Providing development opportunities and giving staff autonomy are the best ways to promote competitiveness
Employers must be prepared to give employees more choice, greater autonomy and improved development opportunities to compete in the future.
Keynote speakers, Gary Hamel, Lynda Gratton and CK Prahalad, told the HR delegates that companies are operating in the most turbulent times in history and have to innovate to survive.
Prahalad, professor of business administration at the University of Michigan Business School, said the deregulation of industries, globalisation, growth in emerging markets, convergence of technology and the internet were working simultaneously to change the relationship between producers and consumers.
Traditional actions taken in response to increased competition - making efficiencies - are no longer enough, he warned. "You can only prune the rose bush so much until you're left with a stub," said Prahalad.
Strategy is the new source of competitive advantage, and it is critical for HR to "take a strategic view on where the business is going", he said.
Gratton, professor at London Business School, warned that the traditional command and control model of employment is no longer appropriate because it does not allow employees to develop or contribute to their full potential.
She explained that new technology, such as laptops, and employee portals, giving staff more autonomy, and the changing expectations of the next generation of employees, must be harnessed if employers want to become the new high-performing democratic organisations.
To do this, companies must encourage their people to be the best they can be by creating opportunities for them to make choices, such as providing variety at work and training and development based on the interests and strengths of their staff.
These choices should extend to areas such as reward, location and the hours people work.
"You must allow people to build their potential and the potential of your organisation," said Gratton.
Hamel said HR directors must develop a learning system for senior managers to help them react to the changing world.